I loved the late George Stienbrenner. He represented what an owner should represent: winning. Whether it be Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson, or manager Billie Martin, Steinbrenner made his players and team accountable. He put the pride back in the pin stripes, the pride that is lacking from this Knicks team. Regardless of what happens today or this season, Mike Woodson is gone as the New York Knicks coach. Hopefully, they will bring in not only a talented coach, but a real general manager and let Steve Mills do what he does best: say yes to chairman James Dolan.
This, once again, is a rebuilding year for the Knicks. However, not since Isiah Thomas, has moral and spirit been so low. Finger-pointing is everywhere on this Knicks team. First, they blamed Andrea Bargnani; however, in his absence the team keeps losing and has lost 11 of the last 13. We have blamed J.R. Smith, whose scoring average is down over 4 points a game from last year. We have blamed Amar’e Stoudemire’s knees, contract, etc. We have blamed Beno Udrih for passing to Smith and for not calling the timeout himself in an earlier loss. We blamed Iman Shumpert for lacking offensive intensity. We blamed Glen Grunwald for his lack of additions in the offseason, forgetting that Tim Hardaway jr., could have been the steal of last years draft. We watched the exodus of Jason Kidd to Brooklyn, Rasheed Wallace to Detroit, Chris Copeland to Indiana and our beloved Steve Novak to Toronto. We blamed Woodson for all of the above and anything not listed.
And, Let’s not forget Raymond Felton and the Felton Follies. What a year this has been and it is not over.
So where does the real blame go? I, for one, give it all to James Dolan, the Anti Steinbrenner. In the 13 seasons since Dolan became the big boss of the place, the Knicks’ record, through Sunday afternoon’s embarrassment to the Chicago Bulls is 432-596. Numbers don’t lie.
In the 10 years with Checketts in charge of basketball at the Garden with Riley and Van Gundy coaching (with a 34-25 stint by Don Nelson in between), the Knicks had a regular season record of 495-293, which is 202 games over .500. They went to the Finals twice, the conference finals two more times, and the conference semifinals five other times. And you know that for so much of it they were going up against Michael Jordan in his prime.
So what happened next? James L. Dolan asked Checketts to leave after that season, Van Gundy resigned 19 games into the next season, feeling he would be asked to leave when the season was over.
So now with Dolan in total charge, the inmates took over the asylum we once called the Garden. With Dolan running the show and his inability to recognize talent and character, the constant losing and rebuilding became commonplace. He destroyed the careers of respected coaches. It began with beloved Don Chaney, Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown, and Mike D’Antoni. He castrated Donnie Walsh and sent him back to Indiana. Through his entire tenure, Dolan’s favorite confidant was Knick killer Isiah Thomas, who he gave the run of the place. Well, we all know how well that worked out for the Knicks.
Suddenly amidst this chaos, the Gods looked down at the “World’s Greatest Arena”, Madison Square Garden, and gave Dolan the miracle on 33 rd street the Knicks and fans so desperately wanted. The Gods gave us Linsanity. And suddenly, the energy, the spark and the celebrities were back at the Garden. The Party was back, the world embraced the Knicks; Linsanity made the Knicks America’s team. Until Dolan stepped in and ruined the party, by sending another quality person packing.
Now the self proclaimed King of the Garden is at the Mercy of CAA and Carmelo Anthony. We all know what happens when the inmates run the asylum. I, for one, love Anthony, his heart, his spirit. I love him as a player, thought — not as the GM. Not even Patrick Ewing was given this much power.
Mike Woodson is nothing more than Dolan’s new fall guy. He insulates Dolan and Mills from everything wrong with the Knicks, from their poor defense, lack of organization, lack of vision, lack of talent, lack of heart, lack of any real plan or vision. Dolan could have saved this season, he either didn’t know how, or he continued to listen to the wrong people. Stienbrenner would have fired Woodson 25 games ago, he would have traded for Kyle Lowry, he would have done “whatever it takes” to win. Steinbrenner knew only of the politics of winning. If a star didn’t perform up to standards, up to their potential, he got in their face, he didn’t coddle them. With Steinbrenner, winning wasn’t the only thing, it was everything.
Dolan has proven he doesn’t know how to win in the NBA. After a successful 54-win season last year — the first in over a decade — he allowed his team, his franchise to become the laughingstock of the NBA.
So here we go again into rebuild mode, Dolan and management are prepared to start all over again. Now they are talking about the summer of 2015, when all these free agents are going to come free, when more bad contracts come off the books, sounds like the LeBron saga all over again. Steinbrenner always got his man. He talked tradition, he talked pride, he built a champion in New York. Dolan has yet to hang a banner in the Garden during his rule.
What the Knicks are lacking is not just heart as Smith says. They are missing pride, character, tradition and an owner who knows how to win.
Dr. Eric Kaplan is. Bestselling Author www.5minutemotivator.com
Follow him on Twitter @drekaplan